A Brazilian environmental agency yesterday gave final approval for the hotly contested Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project. Once completed, the Belo Monte dam will generate about 11% of Brazil's current energy needs. It will be the world's third largest dam at 3.75 miles long, and, if construction begins soon, will be completed in 2015. Belo Monte has been in the works for 30 years but has been stalled repeatedly by opposition. Indigenous groups and environmental and human rights activists maintain the project will cause catastrophic harm to the Amazon rain forest and tribes living within it.
Over the estimated 8 years of construction heavy machinery and thousands of workers will be introduced to sensitive forest areas. The Guardian reports that 30,000 indigenous people will be displaced by the dam, and 62 miles of the Xingu river will go partially dry. Meanwhile in Chile, a proposed hydroelectric dam project there has been the target of protests for months. On May 21st in the nation's capitol, Santiago, 20,000 Chileans rallied against the Hidro Aysen project. Comprised of five dams, the Hidro Aysen would flood an estimated 14,000 acres of farmland and forests. It would require a 1,500 mile transmission line corridor to be cut through rainforest and other protected lands.